The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) recently released a paper with the inflammatory title “Paying Illegals to Stay.” The paper highlights a two-year-old report from the Treasury Department’s Inspector General which enumerated what immigrant taxpayers who file their taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) were receiving in tax refunds through the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) they claimed for their U.S.-citizen children.
Unauthorized immigrants are required to pay their taxes, just like all Americans, and many fulfill their tax payment obligations by using an ITIN. According to the Treasury Department’s Inspector General, in 2010, ITIN filers reported $60 billion in wages, and unauthorized immigrants contributed $13 billion in payroll taxes to the Social Security trust funds. This revenue, which benefits all Americans, far outweighs the amount that would be saved by stripping the child tax credit away from the U.S.-citizen children of ITIN filers.
However, the actual taxes paid into the system are of no consequence to CIS. What bothers them is that U.S.-born children of immigrants are deriving a benefit from their parents’ tax payments. Child tax credits can only be claimed by those paying into the system and were designed to alleviate some of the burden that tax payments impose on low-income working families. Taking away this credit from tax-paying families could drive more than 2 million families, and up to 4 million U.S.-citizen children, closer to poverty. Maybe CIS would prefer undocumented immigrants pay no taxes using their ITINs, thereby making them ineligible for any tax credits. But then how could that be reconciled with the accusation CIS often levies that immigrants make no fiscal or economic contributions at all?
While the Inspector General’s two-year-old report is not terribly newsworthy, it’s clear that the CIS paper was created to provide cover for certain extreme anti-immigrant members of Congress who persist in trying to deny ACTC credits to immigrant families. In fact, these members were able to add the provision to the GOP’s original list of demands during the recent debt-ceiling negotiations.
What CIS has done, once again, is prove that their agenda is not to find sound policy solutions to the shortcomings of the U.S. immigration system based on a principled view of how immigration levels should be set. Rather, CIS seeks to twist any available data they can find and distribute it to the public in order to buoy their belief that all immigrants are criminals and frauds, and that their U.S.-citizen children should be punished for having immigrant parents.